Wild Colours - Exciting colours from Natural Dyes
1) What is madder?
Madder (Rubia tinctoria) root is one of the oldest natural dyes and has been used for many centuries in Turkey, Iran and India, for the production of beautiful carpets and wall hangings. The deep rich madder colour, Turkey red, was a closely guarded secret in that region for centuries.
2) What colours does madder extract produce?
Madder extract produces a wide range of reds from orange red, brick red, blood red to fiery reds. Madder extract produces a vibrant red colour with an alum mordant in hard water when the temperature is kept below 80°C. The principal pigment in madder roots is alizarin which produces the rich red but there are smaller quantities of yellow and brown pigments.
You can buy two types of madder extract from Wild Colours. Madder Extra is stronger than the standard madder extract and contains more than 5 times as much free alizarin, producing purer, redder colours with less brown and pink.
3) How do I use madder extract?
Wash and mordant the wool (follow Scouring the wool and Mordanting with alum for details).
Make a paste with 1 teaspoon (5 grams) madder extract and a small amount of warm water. Fill a saucepan with water and add the madder extract paste. Mix about one third of a teaspoon of chalk (calcium carbonate) with a small amount of boiling water in a container and add to the pot with the madder.
Add the pre-wetted mordanted fibre. Bring the dye bath to 80° C only for madder extract and then keep at that temperature for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring gently from time to time. Leave overnight to cool.
Controlling the temperature of the dye pot and the use of hard water determine the release of the different pigments involved. Raising the temperature above 80° C will produce brown-reds. If you live in a soft water area, adding half a teaspoon of chalk will produce better reds.
4) How much wool does the madder extract dye?
20 grams of Madder Extract Extra will dye two 100 gram hanks of Blue-faced Leicester superwash wool to a brick red and burnt orange colour, respectively, depending on water quality and other factors (see photo).
20 grams of the standard madder extract extra will dye two 100 gram hanks of Blue-faced Leicester superwash wool to a light brick red and a coral pink colour, respectively, depending on water quality and other factors (see photo).
We suggest you experiment as dye colours will vary with the type of fibre, the mordant and the quality of water.
5) What is madder extract?
Our madder extract is shipped as a dry dark red crystalline powder that is very stable and of high colour fastness. It is produced using processes that respect the environment and comply with organic textile certifications. Our madder dye extract is an approved dyestuff for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS 4.0) and is of consistent high quality through certified cultivation of a pure plant (Europam: the European certification for medicinal herbs) and a high level of process control during production.
Learn more about dyeing with natural dye extracts:
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Updated on 19 April 2021
Website & photos by Mike Roberts ©2006-21 Wild Colours natural dyes